How to improve revenue through research

Andrew Ballard

Relying on your gut, when it comes to developing marketing strategy, usually leads to more Rolaids than revenue. Developing marketing strategy based on your customers’ preferences and perceptions is always a better bet.

This is the second article of a two-part series on conducting “do it yourself” marketing research.

February’s column (Supply-demand decisions need insight) covered the first two steps: planning and designing a marketing research study. This installment addresses the final two steps: collecting and analyzing.

Collecting: After planning and designing the research project you’ll be ready to conduct the study. But before you begin customer interviews or e-mailing an online survey link, test the instrument and collection process for glitches.

There’s nothing worse than collecting all of the data, reaching your sample goal (the number of respondents you were aiming for) and finding out there was a problem in the collection process that renders your data useless.

Conduct a short test to make sure the survey design and collection methodology are free of errors. Be sure the wording (and sequence) of your questions don’t bias responses. Respondents also can unintentionally cause errors, respondent confusion and fatigue are common.

Examples: if a respondent is confused by a question, they may not be answering the question you intended. That means the data has no validity. Also, if the interview or survey is too long, the respondent may become burned out and the accuracy and completion rates wane.

Be sure the wording of all your questions is simple and clear, and that your questionnaire is not too long — best practices suggest five-minutes max for an online survey and not longer than 15 minutes for a phone interview.

Working with an experienced third party can minimize collection errors; however, as the client, you should review test results to make sure everything is in order before burning through your customer database. Analyzing: You’ll begin this final step by “scrubbing” the data (correcting entry errors). After errors have been omitted, you’ll format, code and tabulate the data.

When possible, it’s best to enter answers directly into a database when conducting interviews. I recommend formatting your research data in a standard spreadsheet such as Excel. Multiple-choice and ranking answers can be coded (using numbers) to speed up entry and tabulation.

By entering question numbers in the column header and responses by row, you can tabulate data by sorting and grouping answers to each question…this process will surface dominate themes. Calculate response groupings to get percentages for each question. You are looking for data (values) that are statistically relevant. For example, if 67 percent of your customer base indicates they prefer product attribute “A” over “B,” you can be relatively confident in featuring (or providing) attribute “A,” knowing it has greater consumer appeal.

A common analysis technique is to cross tabulate the data sets, which is achieved when you combine two or more sets of data, e.g. compare respondent demographic variables (independent) to how a “value” question was answered (dependent variable). You gain a much better understanding of the market when cross tabulating independent to dependent variables — income bracket to preferred attribute, respectively.

Start with a simple project — a basic data set is far better than no intelligence at all. It will take some planning and design before you can conduct and analyze a marketing research study, but the up-front investment will pay dividends down the road. Before making a high-impact business decision, verify the best path to take before embarking on the journey. My favorite quote is “test before you invest,” probably because it is mine.

Andrew Ballard is president of Marketing Solutions, an agency specializing in growth strategies. For more information, call 425-337-1100 or go to

Talk to us

More in Herald Business Journal

County staff urges ‘no’ on Point Wells development proposal

County Hearing Examiner Peter Camp could decide the fate of the high-rise project this summer.

SpaceX captures the flag, beating Boeing in cosmic contest

Elon Musk’s company is the first private firm to launch a crew to the International Space Station.

Alderwood mall is ready for the governor’s green light

The Lynnwood shopping center, closed since March 24, could reopen in June. But expect changes.

Snohomish County seeks to enter second phase of reopening

The variance request will go to the state if approved by the Board of Health and the County Council.

Firm accused of violating eviction ban agrees to restitution

About 1,450 tenants, including some in Marysville, will receive rent refunds or direct payments.

Texan comes to defend Snohomish outlaw barber cutting hair

Bob Martin is defying orders to close. The man he calls his attorney didn’t go to law school.

Hundreds of masked guests line up as Tulalip casinos reopen

Tulalip Resort Casino and Quil Ceda Creek opened the doors on Tuesday after a two-month closure.

Boeing workers cope with the virus threat as layoffs loom

Five weeks after they returned to work, Boeing workers say measures inside the plants are mostly working.

Boeing cutting more than 12,000 jobs with layoffs, buyouts

The company said it will lay off 6,770 workers this week, and another 5,520 are taking buyouts.

Worst jobless rate in the state: Snohomish County at 20.2%

In April, 91,383 were unemployed in the county. The aerospace sector was hit especially hard.

Small business relief effort inundated with 850 applications

The economy in and around Everett has struggled amid fallen revenues and uncertainty about the future.

‘Hundreds of millions’ in bogus jobless benefits paid out

Washington state has been reported as the top target of a Nigerian fraud ring.